September 17, 2012
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TV Show: Ben and Kate

Acting like a doofus on 'Ben and Kate'
By Bill Harris, QMI Agency


Actors Dakota Johnson (L) and Nat Faxon of "Ben and Kate" arrive at a screening of Fox TV's new Tuesday night comedies at Santa Monica College's Broad Stage on Aug. 26, 2012. (Kevin Winter/AFP)

The new sitcom Ben and Kate features an Academy Award-winning writer acting like a doofus.

Well, maybe doofus isn't quite a fair assessment of the Ben character in Ben and Kate, which debuts Tuesday, Sept. 25 on Fox and Citytv.

But let's just say it would be a stretch to picture Ben as an Academy Award-winning writer, even though that's an accurate description of Nat Faxon, the actor who plays Ben.

"I booked this the day after I won the Oscar, so things went well right off the bat," said Faxon, who won his Oscar for co-writing the screenplay for the 2011 George Clooney movie The Descendants.

"I think (the Oscar) certainly has offered some momentum that is very welcome. But they're sort of different worlds. I don't know that I'm going to be handed acting roles because I did something in the writing field."

At which point Ben and Kate executive producer Dana Fox chimed in, "Let me clarify: We locked in (Faxon) before he had a chance to realize he had made a huge mistake."

Dana Fox's sensibilities actually are at the heart of Ben and Kate, since the general story is based upon the ongoing relationship between her and her brother.

In the show, Kate (Dakota Johnson, daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith) is a single mother working as a bar manager to provide for her five-year-old daughter Maddie (the super-adorable Maggie Jones). Kate got pregnant in college, dropped out just shy of graduation and basically put her personal dreams on hold to try to be a responsible parent.

Kate figures that by now she is strong enough for every possible complication life can throw at her, save perhaps for the unexpected re-emergence of her older brother Ben. He's a lovable man-child, equal parts endearing and infuriating, loyal to the ones he loves but often oblivious to how his head-in-the-clouds actions impact others.

Actors have to play real-life people all the time, but usually those people are famous, or at least have been party to famous circumstances or events. Faxon is in the rare situation of playing a real-life person who the public doesn't know anything about.

"Well, I think I'm not so far from the character, or the real guy," Faxon said. "I also have a very good friend who I grew up with who is the same blueprint. So I was able to find the character through him, and meeting the real Ben Fox and talking to him, and just my own sensibility.

"It's subtle when you first meet (the real Ben). It's not like you go, 'Oh my God, this guy's silly and goofy and full of crazy ideas.' He's a really fun, extroverted guy who you can hang out with and drink beers with. But you can understand the childhood that Dana probably had.

"It's important for me playing the role not to make it absurd. He is a functioning person. He just has a lot of balls in the air, and some of them aren't landing. They just kind of stay up and circulate."

Balls that stay up and circulate? If anything's worthy of an Academy Award, that is.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca




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